Welcome back to Kabooooom’s weekly comic review round-up! There’s a whole lot of new books out this week as our reviewers give us the scoop on Doug Lara’s first issue of Hydrocarbon Man, the finale of Trinity War in Justice League #23 and more!
HYDROCARBON MAN #1/ Written by DOUG LARA/ Art by DOUG LARA/ Published by DOUG LARA
Review by MATT MORRISON
In a dystopian future, the almighty corporation SYNERGY owns all. An upper-class of privileged slaves is allowed to live in comfort under the draconian rules of the company.
Free speech is illegal and the only freedom many have left is the ability to hide their thoughts. Yet even that may be taken away unless two men – one an idealistic dreamer from the underclass SYNERGY does not employ and the other a newly fired drone – work together to save the world.
The first issue of Hydrocarbon Man delivers its’ message on the evils of corporatism with all the subtlety of a wet fart in a church on Sunday morning.
It makes the Bronze Age Green Lantern/Green Arrow comics of Denny O’Neil seem restrained by comparison.
This might be forgivable if the story were entertaining or at least put a new spin on the same territory explored by hundreds of other stories set in dystopian futures. Sadly, it is not and it does not.
The artwork is as dull and drab as the story. To call the artwork of Hydrocarbon Man #1 amateurish would be an insult to every child who ever doodled in the margins of a Mead notebook during math class. There’s not much variety in the character designs and 90% of book depicts the characters looking straight at the reader, perhaps to hide the fact that creator Doug Lara has trouble drawing human faces any other way.
A+X #11/ Thor + Magik Written by MIKE BENSON/ Art by MARK TEXEIRA/ Colors by LEE LOUGHRIDGE/ Letters by VC’S CLAYTON COWLES/ The Superior Spider-Man + Cyclops Written by JIM KRUEGER/ Art by RON LIM and CHRIS SOTOMAYOR/ Letters by VC’S CLAYTON COWLES/ Published by MARVEL COMICS
Review by ANNE MORTENSEN-AGNEW
This installment of the A+X series slots Thor and Magik against the legions of Limbo, and Cyclops against the Superior Spider-Man. Mike Benson’s Thor + Magik is without a doubt the weaker of the two. It’s barely a team-up, much less one worth of the main slot on the cover.
Thor foolishly gets himself sent to Limbo, which Magik rules over, and the two pound on some demons and a dragon before Magik bails him out. That’s it. Monsters are smacked, words are exchanged, but nothing of substance happens. Thanks to Mark Texeira and Lee Loughridge it’s a lovely nine pages, but ultimately a boring nine pages as well.
Jim Krueger’s Superior Spider-Man + Cyclops, however, is actually very good. It’s very heavy on the irony, with the theme of things not being what they seem. Cyclops tries to do the heroic thing in catching the body-snatching Malice but is treated like a villain, while as Spider-Man the body-stealing Doctor Octopus has the very public trust Cyclops desires.
They’re both trying to be heroes, but while Cyclops has his heart in the right place, Spider-Ock is in his heart a self-centered hypocrite, no matter how much he plays at being a hero. Malice herself is as innocuous as she wishes to be, stealing bodies that will allow her to blend in or play a perfect victim to Cyclops’s apparent mutant terrorism. Spider-Ock is the one who brings up the theme of deception, for maximum reader discomfort but in the best possible way. He encourages Cyclops to embrace his bad reputation and use it to get what he wants, just as he uses Peter Parker’s good name for himself, and chillingly informs Malice that he is able to resist her attempted body-takeover because he’s “used to pushing away weaker personalities.”
There really are not too many bad things to say about Superior Spider-Man + Cyclops. The story does bring up a logic issue in Cyclops not immediately being suspicious that Spider-Man is acting so wildly out of character, but since this is something that seems to be affecting the entire Marvel Universe and not just him, it’s passable. Still, as good as Superior Spider-Man + Cyclops is, Thor + Magik just doesn’t cut it. Only one good-ten page story just does not justify the $3.99 price tag.
JUSTICE LEAGUE #23/Story by GEOFF JOHNS/Pencils by IVAN REIS/Inks by JOE PRADO, OCLAIR ALBERT, & EBER FERREIRA/Colors by ROD REIS/Letters by NICK J. NAPOLITANO/Published by DC COMICS
Review by MARCUS HAMMOND
Months ago, Geoff Johns revealed how DC Comic’s crossover event Trinity War was going to end and many fans scratched their heads at the tactic. With the release of Justice League #23 readers now have to decide whether the first major crossover event in DC’s New 52 could maintain its anticipation with the resolution laid bare. With so many action-packed and dramatic moments throughout the event, could Johns preserve and create a long-lasting, memorable moment? The answer is yes.
As with many of the other issues in the event, Justice League #23 picks up right where Justice League Dark #23 left off. The heroes are in the thrall of Pandora’s box and everything is coming to fruition for the mysterious outsider who has been pulling the strings of the entire DC Universe.
Johns handles the massive cast of characters well as he transitions flawlessly between individual characters from the three different teams. While manipulating the personalities of such a large cast of characters may have been a daunting task for a less established writer, Johns pulls it off flawlessly.
The evil thoughts that wash over each hero from Pandora’s box remain consistent with each character. Steve Trevor’s jealousy of Superman, Zatanna’s mistrust of Constantine, and Superman’s hidden resentment of Batman all seem completely natural for the atmosphere of chaos that surrounds them.
Ivan Reis’s art is eye-popping throughout the book. He really pulls out all the stops for the conclusion by including multiple full-page splashes of the conflict torn heroes in various stages of meltdown. One of the stand out moments arrives late in the issue with Cyborg, who has been downplayed throughout the series. It is Reis’s attention to detail that really makes Cyborg pop of the page.
Johns also does a terrific job of including smaller plot and character reveals that helps the reader forget that they already know how the event is supposed to end. Cyborg’s role in the Outsider’s plans, the Atom’s true identity, and the alterations to Pandora’s origin all come together to create a pleasantly intriguing plot line.
Even though the final pages may have been anticlimactic for some readers the development of each character and the conflict along with Reis’s art makes this a highly enjoyable comic.
CAPTAIN MIDNIGHT #2/ Written by JOSHUA WILLIAMSON/ Art by FERNANDO DAGNINO/ Colors by EGO/ Letters by NATE PIEKOS OF BLAMBOT®/ Published by DARK HORSE COMICS
Review by ANNE MORTENSEN-AGNEW
Captain Midnight #1 was a mess of a book that had a decent amount of cheese to potentially justify buying it. In its second issue, however, Joshua Williamson rids the book of that cheese and has increased the terrible tenfold. The pacing is still awful as virtually nothing happens – or, things do happen, but it feels like it doesn’t. The cheese has been gutted, save for one line on the first page about how “it’s a matter of public record” that a man “was killed by a polar bear in the heat of battle.” It’s a great line in a hilarious scenario that’s wasted on a rotten book.
Fernando Dagnino’s art is good, and Captain Midnight and Charlotte’s dogfight against Fury Shark’s drones in particular is pretty exciting. But there’s not much in the way of a story. Issue #1 danced around the issue of how Captain Midnight came to the present, since the title character was only in the first and last three pages of his own book.
We still don’t know how he got here – Captain Midnight seems to have an idea, but he’s not keen on spilling any sort of information other than bad exposition. There’s a hint of a mystery with clues that immortal Nazi scientist Fury Shark’s technology is too advanced for mere Earthlings, and hints that there’s more to Midnight’s reappearance than Bermuda Triangle shenanigans. But given that there’s no headway in any of those mysteries, everything is frustrating instead of intriguing.
Captain Midnight himself gets more than six pages in this issue, but frankly the show was better off without him. Midnight spends his first pages screaming at Agent Jones, one of the men sent to retrieve of him and whose men he just single-handedly killed in battle (they were secretly evil, though, so it’s okay), and then getting into a too-long fistfight with the guy.
His time with Charlotte is spent being condescending. Charlotte herself is the only character with a good head on her shoulders, but given that she’s babysitting Captain Jerk, she’s not fun to be around. Agent Jones and Marshall are barely established, let alone developed. Miss Fury Shark, whose existence as an immortal Nazi scientist billionaire is a delightful absurdity, is downplayed to the book’s detriment.
The whole thing is a complete mess, and there is, unfortunately, at least one more issue left. But for all its faults, Captain Midnight is still a better Captain America book than Rick Remender’s.